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How To Take a Van Camping Trip With Your Dog

By: Frida Berg

We all know dogs have a funny way of coming into your life and changing it for the better, and that applies to taking them with you on your next adventure too. Dogs really do know how to live in the moment, and encourage us to do the same.

So if you’re thinking about bringing your dogs with you on your next adventure, we should warn you now… you won’t be able to enjoy a trip without them ever again!

Preparing for a trip

 A woman and her two dogs stand on a trail and look out at the mountains.

When you’ve decided that you want to explore a new destination with your furry friends, there’s some extra planning to do to make the trip go smoothly:

Check if the place you want to visit allows dogs 

If you need to take a ferry, then make sure they allow dogs on board too – or try to find alternate routes for transport instead. Be prepared for the journey. 

If it’s a long drive, plan ahead and stop off for plenty of breaks. We usually stop at least every two hours, sometimes more, and it really helps to make sure the dogs are comfortable. Taking the dogs on a big walk the day before a long drive helps them relax and sleep on the way there too. 

Two dogs rest on a bed in a van while on a camping trip.

Pack enough food for the trip

Our dogs love a consistent diet, so we always pack enough of their food to last the whole trip to avoid needing to buy other food whilst we’re away. Remember to factor in if they’ll need extra food if you’re planning on doing lots of physical activity, and don’t forget their bowls.

Make a note of a local vet’s details

Hopefully you won’t need to visit the vet when you’re on holiday, but it’s a good number to have in case of emergencies.

Bring a doggy-specific First Aid Kit

You can usually pick these up in a pet store, and it should have the essentials like tick and flea removers, bandages, and other essentials. Make sure your pups are up to date on all their vaccinations and treatments, and check with your vet if the place you’re visiting has any other requirements for entry or common diseases to watch out for.

What to consider when travelling in Europe

A woman, man, and their dog sit on top of their parked car while on a camping trip.

We’re extremely lucky that Europe is such a dog-friendly destination, with amazing hikes, lakes, and dog-friendly cities to explore. But, not everywhere on the continent is as accessible to dogs (and their owners) as you’d expect. 

Some areas have restrictions on when you can visit with a dog, and others have total bans on 4-legged friends to protect the local wildlife. The easiest way to check is usually by doing a quick search online, which will give you loads of information about whether or not somewhere is dog friendly. 

A woman and her two dogs sit on a rock and take a break from hiking in the mountains.

If you’re heading to a beach or National Park, check on their websites, or speak to local rangers who can give you the most up to date information on whether or not you can visit with pets.

Before setting off on our trip to the Alps last year, we found out that dogs aren’t actually allowed in any National Parks in France, even on a lead. Luckily, we found an online guide showing all the other beautiful hikes and areas we could visit with our dogs, which meant we could plan accordingly and weren’t disappointed when we got to a trailhead.

Finding a place to stay

Travelling in a vehicle is a great way to discover new places, and we love the freedom it brings when it comes to finding places to stay overnight! You can be a little more spontaneous, and we love being able to change our plans last minute to follow the good weather or check out a place someone recommended.

A man and his two dogs sit together in a hammock while on a camping trip.

If you’re planning to stay in a campsite, make sure to check what their policy is for dogs, and if there’s any extra charges to pay when booking. When we were in Northern Spain, a lot of local campsites charged a couple of extra euros for each dog, which wasn’t something we’d budgeted for. 

Some campsites also have restrictions on how many dogs are allowed, and whether or not you can have them off the lead. If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is call up in advance and speak to the folks at reception. The Knot-A-Hitch is a great option to keep your dogs on lead at camp but they still have a little extra freedom.

Packing list for an international trip 

Over the years, we’ve been on loads of trips to Europe with our dogs, Henry and Wally. We’ve gotten quite good at remembering what we need, but it’s always worth having a checklist to make sure we don’t forget anything.

Two dogs wearing Ruffwear's Dirtbag™ dog drying towels sit in a van.

Some things on the list are specific to certain types of adventures, and others are useful on any type of trip, no matter what you’ve got planned! Here’s what we’d recommend packing: 

  • Enough dog food – pack it in a dry bag, like the Kibble Kaddie™, to help keep the smell contained and the kibble fresh! 
  • Food and water bowls 
  • Poo Bags
  • Their favourite treats and toys happy dogs, happy life
  • Dog bed and sleeping bag
  • Collars and leads – double check all your details are up to date if they’re printed on the tags
  • Driving harness
  • Adventure harness
  • Backpacks when we’re hiking, everyone carries their own dinner! 
  • Life jackets
  • Coats 
  • Doggy First Aid Kit
  • Tick and flea remover
  • Hair brush and comb – what’s better than a little pamper session after a big day of adventures?
  • And the thing we never go camping without: Dog Drying Towels

We hope this has helped you feel confident bringing your dog along with you on your next adventure. Life really is better with dogs by your side and they deserve a holiday too – they’ll make the trip even more memorable! 

Ruffwear ambassadors Frida and Leo are outdoor enthusiasts and love to take their dogs Henry and Wally with them everywhere they go. A new adventure is always around the corner, whether it’s travelling round Europe in their Land Rover Defender, a long misty hike at home, or camping in the middle of nowhere, they’re always looking for somewhere a little wilder. Follow their adventures at @somewherewilder